Although Dr. Watts-Amato's book is designed for beginners and she uses the Rider-Waite-Smith deck for illustrations, she has some new ideas and nuggets of information that even seasoned Tarotists can ponder. For instance, Watts-Amato likens the seven cups in the card of the same name to the seven deadly sins, something that would never have occurred to me. Nor would I ever have identified the Four of Swords card as depicting "an important part of us [that] has died in battle." Hmmm.
Similarly, she identifies the five swords being carried away on the Seven of Swords card as "five essential qualities of a successful thief, which may either help or hinder us on our journey through life": impulsiveness, rebelliousness, evasiveness, risk taking, and resourcefulness.
by Laurie Watts-Amato
The mention that Pamela Colman Smith was a set designer leads Watts-Amato into the notion that the cards are a pictorial representation of an age-old drama and that we are the actors, assuming first one, then another character—sometimes the hero, sometimes the villain. "Playing with the cards give us the opportunity to see the many possibilities in life because each time we shuffle the cards, the storyline changes," says Watts-Amato.
Each chapter in the book is, in fact, an essay on one separate card and discusses the card as "a special quality we need to develop, an action we need to take, or an experience we need to undergo in order to grow."
Each card/chapter has its own keyword and is introduced by a related quote. For instance, the keyword for Strength is "cooperation," and the quote is from Lao-Tzu: "Mastering others requires force; mastering the self needs strength." I would have liked more complete references to each quote, but, then, that is my complaint with a lot of books that precede chapters with quotations.
The keyword for the Death card is "reward," and the guiding quote is from Thoreau: "Things do not change; we change." The essay deals more with the issue of physical death and our fear of it than many other authors do. Finally, however, Watts-Amato is able to devote one paragraph to the idea that the Death card has to do with transition. I did enjoy her perception that "Optimism, represented by the adolescent girl, is the positive attitude that must be our constant companion in the face of death. Wonder, symbolized by the little girl, is our remarkable ability to view death as an amazing adventure rather than as a punishment."
A part of the book that I would like to have seen expanded is the Appendix, titled "Conflicting Pairs. Some of these are not what you may think, and may provoke you to come up with your own list of conflicting pairs. What would you change in these pairings?
The Fool and the Eight of Pentacles (nonconformity vs. conformity)
The Hermit and the Three of Cups (isolation vs. connection)
Ace of Swords and Seven of Swords (honesty vs. dishonesty)
My own preference would be to think of them as existing dualities rather than conflicts. It strikes me, however, that when we have a client who is troubled by a card from his or her reading, we could ask the client to pick a card that is the opposite or that balances the troublesome one. Then you have the opening of an entirely new discussion or a second reading.
Tarot Insights (ISBN 1-4184-8329-X) is available from the publisher, Author House (.AuthorHouse.com), or in bookstores. You can visit Laurie Watts-Amato's website at TarotInsights.com.